This article was originally published on Review of Optometric Business and reprinted with permission.
By TSO Board Member Mark Wright, OD, FCOVD, and Carole Burns, OD, FCOVD
Practices are still struggling to recall patients who missed appointments in the months offices were shut down last year. Here are actions to take to ensure all patients due for care are contacted and successfully encouraged to make an appointment.
Delivering care improves the lives of the patients we see. When patients are not seen and treated, their quality of life is decreased. When patients are not seen, fixable problems are not resolved. When patients are not seen, potential permanent damage can occur to the visual system. The key to fixing this problem then is to see patients and provide high-quality care.
This year there may be large holes in our patient schedules for the months we were closed last year during the pandemic. We need to act quickly to fill those schedule holes. Here are ideas to get you started.
RESPONSIBILITY & ACCOUNTABILITY
You should have at least one person in your practice who is both responsible and accountable for filling the schedule. If your practice is large enough you may have one person responsible and accountable for established patients returning for care and a second person responsible and accountable for the number of new patients receiving care in your practice.
Remember to train these people to understand the end product of their job is patients receiving care from your office. Patients scheduled is simply one step in the system of patients actually receiving care in your office. It is a very important step, but it is not the end product. You are paying people in your practice to create the end product, which is patients seen.
The place to start with established patients is to scan your patient database for patients who have not been into the practice in two years or more. Activate your recall systems targeting these patients. If you can get 60 percent of these patients to make an appointment, you should be able to fill the schedule.
A key concept in practice management is to make it easy for patients to do business with you, so make sure your online scheduling is up and running, as well as debugged.
Review all of your marketing campaigns to make sure that they are effective and productive. Target especially these campaigns:
1) Doctors asking for new patients in the exam room
2) Social media
3) External listings
a. Think about Your Eyes
c. All vendor websites listing doctor recommendations
d. Vision plans websites listing doctor recommendations
4) Each doctor in the practice should have at least one specialty area beyond general care, and that should be highlighted in the practice
Fear is the number one driver keeping patients away from our practices. Because of this, when talking to patients, we need to emphasize the safe environment that exists in the practice due to the safety precautions that have been implemented.
We need to understand what our patients are thinking. Train staff that if a patient refuses to schedule an exam, they should write down exactly what each patient is giving as an excuse. By keeping track of exactly what patients are saying we can determine if there are any trends. When a trend is identified, create scripts to address the trend. Have staff role-play using the scrips until it sounds smooth and natural.
We have enough time if we act now to fill those holes in the schedule. Acting later may be too late. Take this week to create and implement an action plan to address this issue in your practice.